Alongside the news of three teams opting out, four teams temporarily relocating, and realigned divisions for the coming season, more information continues to emerge following today’s AHL Board of Governors meeting. Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston reports that NHL clubs and their AHL affiliates have been informed that there will be no blanket quarantine period for player recalls and reassignments this season. Instead, quarantine measures will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis considering the totality of the circumstances. This will include team protocols, travel logistics, and accordance with local COVID-19 health guidelines.
As Johnston notes, this will make AHL recalls much easier for those teams whose affiliates share a city or even a state or province. Short, safe travel ability and uniform local policies will allow for much shorter quarantine periods. Teams in this situation may even ask their affiliate to maintain the same NHL-level of day-to-day quarantine protocols to make recalls even easier, perhaps even without any quarantine. The Toronto Maple Leafs, Winnipeg Jets, Vegas Golden Knights, and San Jose Sharks (if and when the team returns home from Arizona) all share a city with their AHL affiliate, as do the New Jersey Devils temporarily. The Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes, Boston Bruins (temporarily), Buffalo Sabres, Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Columbus Blue Jackets, Detroit Red Wings, Los Angeles Kings, Ottawa Senators, Montreal Canadiens, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins all have their AHL affiliates within state or provincial lines as well.
For those teams with some distance between themselves and their minor league clubs, recalls could remain difficult. Especially for those Canadian teams whose affiliates remain in the U.S. – the Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, and Vancouver Canucks – quarantine logistics will be a struggle. Johnston points out that for these teams and the American clubs with affiliates elsewhere in the country, travel will be a major obstacle. The one blanket policy for all NHL and AHL players this season is that a seven-day quarantine period is required following a commercial flight. This could also stand to effect any team on a long-term road trip that is desperate enough to make a recall.
However, while this policy will help a great number of teams, it is important to remember that taxi squads were established for this season to reduce the reliance on AHL recalls, at least as a frequent measure. Regardless of each NHL team’s location relative to their AHL affiliate, most teams will largely use their six-man taxi squad for emergency substitutions and will have options in the meantime should they decide to recall a player who must quarantine.